Claimant held in contempt of court for gross exaggeration in medical negligence claim

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust v Atwal [2018] EWHC 961 (QB) is summarised in the opening paragraph of the judgment as follows:

This is an application for the committal of the defendant, Mr Sandip Singh Atwal, for
contempt of court. The application is brought by Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (“the Trust”), with permission granted by Jeremy Baker J on 12th October 2017. Permission was granted because it is in the public interest that allegations of contempt as serious as this should be heard and dealt with, if proved. The allegation is that the defendant pursued a fraudulent claim for damages for clinical negligence by grossly exaggerating the continuing effect of comparatively minor injuries, sustained as long ago as 2008, which were negligently treated at one of the Trust’s hospitals. The injuries were fractures of two fingers and a laceration of the lower lip. Liability was always admitted. As soon as the claim was intimated in 2011, two years before proceedings were issued, the Trust made a Part 36 offer of £30,000. The claim as pleaded in the schedule of loss and damage in November 2014 was for a total of £837,109, including very substantial claims for future loss of earnings and future care, based on the proposition that the defendant was unable to work and was grossly incapacitated.

The background to the matter and its outcome is thoroughly explained in the UK Human Rights blog by Lucy Eastwood.

The Court on 27 April 2018 found fourteen allegations of contempt relating to false statements by Mr Atwal to be proven. In each category of dishonesty Mr Justice Spencer found that the making of false statements (at [94]):

… plainly had a tendency to interfere with the administration of justice by increasing the seriousness of the consequences of the injuries and, potentially, increasing the quantum of his damages. I am sure too that the defendant must have intended thereby to interfere with the administration of justice. There is no other explanation for making such false statements. Equally, and for the same reason, the false statements verified by a statement of truth in his witness statement and his schedule of loss and damage would be likely to interfere with the course of justice if persisted in. I am sure that the defendant had no honest belief in the truth of the statements he made and knew full well that these false statements were likely to interfere with the course of justice …

The court adjourned consideration of sentence and any application to set aside the finding of contempt until 1st June 2018. Contempt of court is punishable by a fine, sequestration of assets or imprisonment. The maximum sentence for contempt is two years imprisonment (s. 14(1) Contempt of Court Act 1981).